CFL Coach Weighs In On Kelly Campbell

May 30th, 2009
Kelly Campbell earned about $60,000 while resurrecting his career playing for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL last year. Now hes in Bucs camp battling for a roster spot and the stigma of a checkered past. His former CFL coach talked to Joe.

Wide receiver Kelly Campbell earned about $60,000 while resurrecting his career playing for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL last year. Now he's in Bucs camp battling for a roster spot and to lose the stigma of a checkered past. His former CFL coach talked to

Joe tracked down former NFL coach Mike Kelly who knows Bucs wide receiver Kelly Campbell far better than most.

Kelly, who spent five seasons as a coach with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, was there to greet the troubled wide receiver when he arrived in Canada to resurrect his football career with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL last year.

Campbell had been out of the NFL and dealing with drug charges and other legal trouble.

Currently head coach of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Kelly was eager to talk about Campbell, who was arguably the CFL’s top receiver last year and has impressed Raheem The Dream in the Bucs’ offseason workouts.

The Dream named the 175-pound speedster among those competing for the Bucs No. 3 receiver position.

Kelly was Campbell’s receivers coach in Edmonton. He offers a look at the 29-year-old former Vikings and Dolphins wideout not to be found anywhere but on

Joe: Why will Kelly Campbell be successful on Sundays? What stands out?

Mike Kelly: “Skillwise, there are very few people that can run the way Kelly can. He’s special that way. …When we measured him in Edmonton he only had 2 percent body fat. He’s no doubt one of the toughest football players I’ve every been around. ….Normally a guy with his size and speed wants to stay outside. Kelly likes it inside the hash marks. He has no fear. …When I saw him and his skill set, I knew the NFL was missing out.”

Joe: How did you initially approach coaching a guy like Campbell, who came into the CFL after years in the NFL and drug and legal problems? And how did he respond?

Kelly:  “I said to him right away, ‘Look we’re both up here and we both understand what that other league is about. Let’s enjoy it while we’re here. Let’s embrace that and let’s work hard. If we get back there great, but let’s make sure we give it everything we have here.’  …It’s an offensive-minded game up here. It allows the offensive player to do more things….Kelly played with passion and didn’t act like a prima donna, which happens when some guys come up here. …I love Kelly Campbell.”

Joe: Most NFL fans hear CFL and think it’s second-rate competition and a guy like Campbell can’t be judged on his performance there. What do you say to that?

Kelly: “It’s not that way for the skill-position players, receivers especially. …Along with Kelly we had Maurice Mann for half a season last year, who was the leading receiver in [the 2008] preseason with the Redskins and spent years in the NFL. But the Redskins went with their drafted guys and didn’t keep him.  He came up and performed very well. …We’ll have cornerbacks in this league who are 5-9 or 5-10 with all the skill sets of guys in the NFL…. But they’re not 5-11 plus…..This is like playing nickel football. Linebackers run well and cover well in the passing game, but they’re not big enough for run-stopping in the NFL….I was in this league when Rocket Ismail was here. Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia. There’s a long list of well known and smaller name NFL players who have played here. …There are only 40 professional football teams in the world. And the CFL will be playing for its 96th Grey Cup, I believe. There’s great talent and organizations here.”

Joe: What about Campbell’s past legal trouble and where he is today?

Kelly: “He made some mistakes that he has stood up to and admitted to at a young age and as a young kid with a lot of money in his pocket….I think the world of Kelly Campbell. He means as much to me as any player I’ve every been around. His work ethic and approach to the game is as good as any player. … I’m so happy for him in Tampa Bay. …The proof will be when they get to training camp.”

Joe: Talk about his work ethic. I read a story online that said he’s a prolific notetaker in team meetings and true student of the game.

Kelly: “Because of his past, there were lots of eyes on Kelly right away wanting to know what’s this guy all about because he had been in trouble.  …. The very first meeting I ran, Kelly took the most detailed notes of anyone in the room. The big thing is that he was able to assimilate the information quickly on the field. …Put it this way (laughs) he was not one of those guys who you worried about ever falling in a meeting. He sat in the front row every single day.”

Joe: What were the NFL scouts seeing of Campbell on film?

Kelly: “Exceptional speed. You notice that immediately. But he studies the game so well. He was very consistent at hitting his landmarks downfield and really helped with the overall timing of the passing game. He showed the speed and the discipline within the passing game. The speed and discipline combination, that’s what stands out on film. …And anytime anyone averages 23 yards a reception like he did, that’s remarkable. . … He drew a lot of double teams and was still able to be productive.”

Joe: So what should Bucs fans know about Campbell the man?

Kelly:  “He thinks he can dance; he can’t do that. …He’s one of the funniest guys you’ll ever be around. He’s got a huge heart. Very caring. A very, very funny man. He and I had an understanding. ….He called me a Halfrican, I’m half [black]. He knew when to work and he knew when to play …He’s really a fun guy.”

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